Monday, September 17, 2012

Above the fold


Gluten-free made it to the teaser at the top of last Wednesday's Boston Globe.

The two pieces, that also got the g-heath cover, tackle gluten in two different ways. The latest fad talks about the popularity of gluten-free "dieting", and Should you go gluten-free? basically shouts at people to not avoid gluten if they don't "medically" need to.

A friend sent me this, and it feels like the appropriate juxtaposition: Modern wheat a "perfect, chronic poison," doctors says


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Get movin

September 1 is coming dangerously near. I have moved 7 times in the past three years, and am preparing for move number 8. Dear readers, learn from my mistakes:

Do not pack fish sauce. 
I hate wasting food, and will almost never say this but it is NOT worth risking a crack or spill to the $0.99 glass jug of the beautiful brown liquor that's unique pungency will resist all forms of laundering. Don't do this to yourself. Don't do this to your friends or movers. Just throw it out. (Or triple wrap it in ziplock, hid it at work for a week until you have your brain back and can deal with delicate substances.)

Don't keep things you don't use. 
That item isn't just sitting there gaining dust. You are loosing money on the possible things you could house and store in place of the [useless] item. Maybe it is space for shoes, (or socks that have functioning elastic), or a bulk quantity of a gluten free flour you actually cook with. Get rid of the junk. Donate it or throw it out. Don't waste your time packing, labeling, moving, unpacking, and restoring it.

You are not going to be smart for a while - plan for it. 
The week before and after packing are not your best. You are in the process of judging your possessions, forgetting where you put things, and trying to adjust to a new environment. Cooking is going to take a back burner, if you can even find that under the piles of boxes. So plan ahead. Make yourself enough pre-made, frozen meals for a few days, or even a week. Make these the last things you pack. Put a note on your old freezer AND the front door to remind you to empty it out. Deposit these directly into your new freezer.  (Bonus if you pack a few sets of silverware in a bag and tape them to the freezer door.) This will keep you from making a hunger-crazed bad decision to try out a new take out place, or eat 5 Lara Bars as "dinner".

The gluten is coming
If you are lucky enough to have friends help you move, pizza is going to happen. If you are lucky to keep a gluten-free kitchen, plan ahead for this outside invader and put your guard up. Remember to wash your hands before you eat or touch your face! The previous tenant probably also was a glutenmouth, so make sure you do a thorough clean of your new place.

Be nice
If you have to move on September 1st, please be kind to yourself and others. Out-of-towners are going to get lost. Every year someone does not read the signs and get's a moving truck stuck in a tunnel. Locals are going to be pissed that you are ruining their last weekend of summer with extra traffic. Stay hydrated! Say thank you! And good luck.

PS - Tacos are my favorite moving food. Most are naturally gluten free, cheap, easy to eat without cutlery. And who doesn't love Jaritos?!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dear Dogfishhead,

You owe me more than a beer. You owe me an apology. For over a year I have been excited, touting the hypothetical glory that would be getting to sip that very first sip of your gluten free beer offering. A small, craft brewer, taking their time to concoct something different, something good, something that didn't taste like all the other gluten free beers out there. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled a bit when I heard you were creating something with fruit. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you were making a lambic. No. Still I held out hope that your brew house wouldn't waste your time, and customer's money - customers who are so often disappointed by crappy gluten free offerings. 

And then you went out and one-upped me on all of the worse possible combinations of wrong I ever thought could be shoved into a glass bottle. 

Let's start at the smell shall we?
Nail salon plus ode de Strawberry Shortcake doll from the 80s. How did you bend chemistry to morph fruit and sorghum to reek of acetone?

The taste... not much better.
It is sweet and sour-ish at the same time.
I find it hard to believe a hops came anywhere near the bottle. 
The carbonation is all wrong, bubbles too small and not enough of them.

The Tweason'ale is the only gluten free beer I have not finished. Two sips and I was done, forever. The rest got poured down the drain.

I could not be more dissapointed,

Kristina
 




Saturday, August 11, 2012

fashion nightmare


This season's Louis Vuitton window art looks like a nightmare, something almost conjured up by Tim Burton. Walking by it yesterday I realized that it is a celiac nightmare - damaged villi!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

South Shore support

This might the most reasonable and accurate gluten-free Globe write-up yet!

Gluten Free and Loving It

(Ok, it omits issues of cross contamination, but on the whole at least it does describe the situation more accurately and it is great to see a support group getting recognition.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

living the dream

I did it. I finally had my dream meal.

For over 4 years I have been pining, experimenting, tasting (sometimes wanting to spit said taste out), tinkering, hemming and hawing, all over pizza.

Last week I went to Risotteria restaurant.

You need to look past the late 90s geo-cities themed website. You must prepare yourself for dining in a sardine can. It helps to have friends who know how awesome a gluten-free restaurant is and who offer up their order to you, so you get to try more things. You should walk around and work up an appetite... because you will need it.

Gluten free bread sticks arrive at the table and the glutenmouths eat them up and go for seconds. A very solid sign and the first time in 5 years I HAD a bread stick! (They had a little bit of gummy-ness in the middle, the only real tell that they aren't the real thing.)

Gluten free beers - check
Surprising wine list - check
Knowledgable servers - check
Solid vegetarian options - check
Menu full of things you can eat - check

I ignored most of the options because I had come for the pizza. The generous friends, noted above, allowed me to sample several types - we got two that were thin crust, one Scicilian. Honestly, skip the thick crust it really didn't work and tasted like a gf knock-off. The thin crust however - actually tasted better than the gluten option one fellow dinner ordered. Everyone noted that the gluten pizza (which is made off site, and shipped in) wasn't nearly as crisp or flavorful.

At the end of the meal my face actually hurt from smiling. I never thought I would get to have New York-style pizza again. Not only did I, it was truly the best pizza I have ever tasted!

I cannot wait for another reason to visit New York!!!!!

(The desserts were nothing to write home about. They weren't bad, they just weren't great. Save room for another slice of pizza.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

NGR in Living Without


Hot off the presses, No Gluten Required is in this month's Living Without magazine. Ok, so it is just a small photo, but it is still very cool.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Michael Ruhlman's gluten education

It is great when anyone is willing to listen and learn more about gluten and celiac disease. It truly is. Information and knowledge is the first step to a lot of things. While I like the intent about Michael Ruhlman's "What I didn't know about gluten" blog post, I found it left me wanting. Part of me was screaming out:

  • not all of us get symptoms in 30 minutes!
  • not all of us feel better after 3 days!
  • it is NOT an inability to digest gluten, it is an autoimmune disease!
  • there are significant long-term side effects of continuing to ingest gluten, even accidentally
  • it is harder because in the US there is no legal definition of "gluten free"
  • it is not JUST food! there is medications, toothpaste (I am staring at you Sensodine), and bath products that are not necessarily properly labeled and are sources of gluten
  • think of the children!

I am serious about the last one. Having a child with an intolerance, autoimmune disease, or allergy is a minefield beyond wishing you could go out to eat and not being able to all the time. 

I am trying to keep my "no one can do everything in one article" hat on, but I am more frustrated with this piece than not. But again, it is a step forward, and Ruhlman has a following and boy oh boy are the comments section of this piece heating up!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits


They really should not work. Light, fluffy, buttery, biscuits are a thing of beauty, that seems to defy gravity. They are made with some of the richest, densest ingredients, but the end result - when they are good - is ethereal. Ok, I sounds like a commercial, but come on. You know when you break into a REALLY good biscuit that it is something at least a little magical. Little domes of goodness can couch savory or sweet - or both! They can be a delicious side, or a whole meal. There is really little a fantastic biscuit cannot do. So without much more floral language, I give you the very best gluten-free biscuits...

Gluten Free Buttermilk Biscuits
1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup glutenous rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup corn starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt (double if you are using unsalted butter)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
8 tbsp very cold butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425F
Have 2 baking sheets, lined with parchment, and an ice cream scoop at the ready
1. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
2. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the eggs and buttermilk together. Set aside.
3. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, the goal is for pea-sized bits of butter throughout the mixture.
4. Pour the liquids into the butter/flour mix and mix until combined. (You don't want to over mix - not because of gluten - but because you don't want to beat up or melt the butter)
If the batter is sticky, that means you are doing it right. These are "drop" biscuits, which mean you literally drop the dough onto the baking pan rather than rolling and cutting them like scones. 
5. With the ice cream scoop (1-2oz, your choice), drop the biscuits onto the cookie sheets. Allow 1-2 inches of room for them to spread.
6. Bake at 425F for 8-20 minutes. Basically you are looking for them to nearly triple in size and brown evenly. This bake time is going to depend on how big you make the biscuits.
As they bake, you are going to see some butter melting and oozing out. This is OK and normal and is a sign of the deliciousness that is to come.

If you happen to have leftovers (ha!) they make great strawberry shortcake bases.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gluten free pumpernickel




"Wait, you can eat this?!"
"I would believe you if you said they didn't have wheat in them, but NO RYE?!"

These are the sounds of success.

It is great when people kindly nod their heads and say that your gluten free offering is "not bad" or "pretty good" but when you can pull the preverbial wool over their tastebuds, well then I know I have won.

I have been messing around with recreating pumpernickel ever since I found teff flour in an Ethiopian mini-mart in Maryland. Now back in Boston, it is a bit harder to find, but the Bob's Red Mill teff flour stuff is pretty close. It is significantly less fermented, so it smells different and requires more yeast - or a longer proofing time - to get going.

This recipe was hard to post and share since a very dear friend, who has passed, helped me develop and perfect it. It was around her dinner table, where so many amazing meals were had, where we discussed what this recipe needed: cocoa, coffee, and molasses. Those three ingredients took this from good to great. I will think of her lovingly every time I make a batch.

Gluten free pumpernickel
2 1/2 cups teff flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup arrowroot starch (+ 1/2 cup in reserve)
1/2 cup rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp psyllium husk
1 tbsp flax seed meal
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp espresso powder
2 tsp instant yeast
3 cups water
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup molasses


1. Combine all of the wet ingredients, and yeast, into a mixing bowl.
2. Combine all of the dry ingredients.
3. On very low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet.
4. Mix to combine.
5. Allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes (overnight is even better). You are looking for the batter to go from a chocolate pudding consistency to something almost as thick as warm frosting. 
6. Now comes the tricky part. If you let it rest for 20-30 minutes you are going to need to see if it has set up enough. Again, you are looking for it to be much thicker, and fall off in plops off the beater or paddle. If it is a bit runny, slowly mix up to 1/2 cup more arrowroot starch. If this scares the baking pants off you - just cover the mixture with plastic wrap and put it in your fridge over night, and skip to #7.
7. Preheat the oven to 425F.
8. Grease 2 muffin tins.
9. Scrape down the batter, and then scoop it into the muffin tins (22-24)
10. Bake at 425F for 30-45 minutes, or until you can pierce the rolls with a toothpick and the center comes out clean.
11. Cool and eat!

This is a bad photo, but you can see the awesome crumb structure and that they do not deflate. I recommend serving them with butter and salt, goat cheese - I am not in any way suggesting you should forgo the pastrami.

Let's chat about the NYT, again

Ok friends, here we go again. The NYT is at it, writing about dietary restrictions. At least this time they threw in a two line paragraph about those who NEED to restrict their diets, but "R.S.V.P. P. S. - No Gluten, fat or soy please: The picky eater who came to dinner" in this week's Times has got me again.

Can we talk about the intimacy and social space that eating is and provides? Can we talk about WHY this is a problem (multiple dietary restrictions) rather than pinning it on an us vs. them model? Can we talk about what a "good host" is? Also, why are you feeding people you don't like enough to make happy?!

Am I being too "picky"? What do you think?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

happy birthday ngr!

5 years ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease. 4 years ago I decided to blog about the good stuff: awesome recipes, naturally gluten free foods, replacement foods that taste as good or better than the gluten-y kind, and post about the oops-es too. Somewhere along the way I got a bit more political, ok a lot more political and started posting about news stories, studies, restaurants that do it right, oh and beer.

Last year I got a little weepy and shared some feelings. This year, NGR totalled over 100,000 hits! And it is the first time I feel like there are so many new gluten free products and options that I am wondering if this "trend" will be sustainable. And what does it mean to be sustainable? I cannot subsist on gluten-free crackers (nor would I want to), but I think it is time for us to have more frank discussions about feeling the need and want to try out every new product on the market, and every new gluten free menu. A lot of times I feel compelled to try or buy something just because there is FINALLY a gluten-free option. I am not sure this is the best for my health or my wallet.

So I am not sure what this new gluten free year is or should look like. I have a CSA. This feels like a good start. I am excited to face the challenges of cooking locally and opening up a bag and trying to figure out what to do with it - rather than roaming store isles for ingredients. I am excited to share more experiments. I am excited to push into baking again and explore those things that are really hard to make gluten free.

What are you excited about this summer?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

gluten free lemon poppyseed muffins

These are almost ready for prime time. I will keep you updated with a recipe for round two.


Friday, June 1, 2012

learning to find and love clams


I had an adventure on Cape Cod. Two overly generous friends offered to take me out clamming. Ok, first off, you should know that I cannot swim and getting me into water is sort of a feat in and of itself. I don't hate water, I just hate being in it above my knees and at the mercy of waves. Luckily it was low tide and the adventure of digging up dinner made me more confident. (The fact that both were lifeguards... well that didn't hurt.)

This is when I raked up 4 keepers in one pass!

Perhaps the very best part of this was that I learned that I do not dislike clams!! I always thought they were rubbery and weird tasting. We grilled up half of these guys and they were AWESOME. Cleaning them is easier than muscles and the flavor is less intense too.


After scrubbing off the extra sand, I sauteed the small ones (little necks - ok there is one big guy on the right) in garlic oil. Once they popped open, I pulled them out and sprinkled lemon zest over the top. A few squeezes of lemon and a beautiful dinner was born!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

nutella rice krispie treats



Sometimes great ideas happen because of an expected set of events converge. Gluten free rice krisipies go on sale. A friend comes to town. One has less than half a jar of Nuttella remaining.

I am not the first to come up with this idea, but I will say that I fancy myself a genius for adding in hazelnuts. I think it makes them extra crunchy, and since the bar mix is a bit softer from the added fat in the nutella, the nuts provide a nice contrast.

gluten free nutella rice krisipie treats
6 tablespoons of butter (use 4 if you want the more standard rice krispie bar harder crunch)
1 bag of marshmallows
1 cup of nutella
5 cups of gluten free rice cereal (I used Erewhon)
1 cup of roasted hazelnuts roughly chopped
2 pinches of kosher salt (option, but really makes this more awesome)
parchment paper or cooking spray

1. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter.
2. Roll the butter around the bowl and up the sides - this will help with clean up later.
3. Add in the marshmallows and melt them in the microwave, stopping and stirring with a rubber scraper every 30 seconds.
4. Once the marshmallows are melted and fully incorporated with the butter, add in the nutella. You want to stir this in and make it one with the marshmallow/butter mixture. You will need to microwave it once or twice for 10-20 seconds to keep the mixture warm and smooth.
5. Add in the cereal and nuts and stir, stir, STIR. (You might need to reheat the mixture for 10 seconds to keep it going. Really stir, cover all the bits with delicous molten goo)
6. Pour mixture out onto a well greased or parchment(better) lined pan. With the scraper spread mixture out till it is less than 1" thick. (If you put another piece of parchment paper on top, you can push the mixture out with your hands or something heavy like a smaller pan.)
7. Allow the treats to cool before cutting.
8. Bring to the beach and enjoy. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Advice for the newly diagnosed

I commented on a post made by GlutenDude that really struck me. I have been very lucky in being surrounded by friends who not only "get it" when it comes to gluten and cross-contamination, two households I regularly frequent have a "Kristina cupboard" filled with gluten free supplies and utensils. I know how rare this is, and how lost and alone I first felt when I was diagnosed and afraid to eat anywhere that wasn't in my kitchen with my safe tools and foods.

If you, or a loved one is newly diagnosed, it can be very very hard to get the information and support you need. My response to a newly diagnosed person whose family is not supportive follows.

***

Please know you are not alone. I ran into similar issues after being diagnosed. Right now, in the US, "we" tend to not consider people ill unless we can see it. If you get chicken pox you are sick, if you have depression, your illness is questioned or people don't believe you at all. While throwing up (my favorite symptom) is quite visible, a lot of the hundreds of symptoms of active celiac disease are invisible.  So know that our current culture/society does not understand or validate what you are going through. That does not make it right, but it is important to know it is happening all around.

Food, buying it, preparing it, eating it, is very social. We know who are friends and family are by who we allow to share a meal with us. When someone refuses to eat what is at the dinner table - for medical reasons, ethical reasons, religious reasons, or flavor reasons - they are "rejecting" the group. I am not saying this is right or wrong, but that is how our societies are set up. Historically, we don't have a lot of experience with this. It is a new thing. We as "food outsiders" and "them" as people without new dietary restrictions have to figure out how to navigate this together. That does not mean it is right for them to shame you, or blame you, but their acting out is because they are HURT. They feel rejected by you rejecting their foods/venues/events. It is a grown up temper tantrum, and it sucks for EVERYONE involved.

What you can do:
GET SUPPORT - I couldn't make it to local celiac support group meetings because I didn't have a car. I found an amazing network of people on celiac.com in the "forum" section. (I no longer participate, but that is a different story)

KEEP GOOD PEOPLE CLOSE - if you have even one friend, family or loved one who "gets it" or is TRYING to learn, hang out with her (or him)! Do fun things together!

For those who don't get it, KEEP IT SIMPLE. You are not going to change their minds with one more factoid of information. Taking the "sex ed" approach to answering just what people ask is often helpful. If they just want to know why you aren't noshing down on egg rolls, you can just say "I cannot eat gluten". If people want more information about villi, they will ask you. Trust me, they will ask.

DO WHAT YOU WANT -  Eat beforehand, bring your own food, participate in whatever you want but keep yourself safe. Remember you get to say "I don't want to talk about it now" whenever you want or need a break. This disease can make you feel like you have NO control. You do. And remember to take the time to do what you want, and how you want to do it.

This is redundant, but know YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This is the single biggest, most important thing I can tell any newly diagnosed person. Reach out to people who understand. We will talk about poop, families, work parties, holidays, missing foods (PIZZA and BEER), reading rx labels, and there is a lot less judgement. You will be amazed at the conversations, and sometimes friendships, that happen in the specialty food isles of grocery stores.

If you are feeling alone, know you are not. If you are missing something - ask others for recommendations. Your gluten-free peers are more often than not more educated than medical professionals and can and WANT to help.

This is not fair or easy. You are a champ for reaching out for advice.

With lots of love,

Kristina

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gluten labeling law - Please email your Rep!

Via the American Celiac Disease Alliance:

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan and New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey have introduced legislation that will require drug manufacturers to label the source of drugs' inactive ingredients. This is huge!

To move the bill ahead we need bipartisan cosponsors by May 8!
All five of the national celiac organizations are united in support of this legislation.

We need our congressional members to have that same shared voice and put forward a bipartisan message:  

  • The safety of our constituents matters; and  
  • Gluten in medicine must be labeled so individuals and their healthcare providers can make an informed, safe choice. 
   

Make A Difference - Take Action Today !

Monday, April 16, 2012

Food studies in the news

The NYT ran a piece yesterday, Truly Food for Thought. It gives a pretty nice glimpse into what some people do and think about food studies, and how these are growing at universities.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I am in a book


Several years ago, I contributed to an encyclopedia, and it was recently released. It was one of my first entries into publishing, and it really helped me learn the ropes. At first writing is fun, then it is annoying, then it becomes painful, and one can easily become enraged, depressed, and discover all sorts of new and interesting forms of procrastination. (This cycle may vary, person to person, but I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't been at least mildly afflicted.)

I met Mimi Sheraton, former New York Times food critic, who was asked, "Are there any projects you have given up on?"
 Mimi replied coolly, "yes all of them."

This very simple reply, by a very seasoned* writer, has stuck with me and helped me mentally hurdle obstacles that seemed insurmountable. I sort of mentally carry Mimi around and allow myself to give up on a project - but never allowing myself to delete or burn it - and then come back to it after some time has passed. If I have a deadline, that sometimes means a day or two. Other projects... well let's just say I have a lot more "draft" posts and half-baked* stories than completed ones. But that is also sort of great. Sometimes it's helpful to walk, talk, or write out an idea that needs to get out of the way of my better one.

So while I added less than 1000 words to this book, I am really proud of the research and recipes, as well as the opportunity to be part of a book titled: They Eat That?

As an added bonus Marion Nestle did a little write up about it.

*I still find it hard to edit out puns. I love them!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Easter & Passover

Gentile or Jew, spring holidays can sometimes be tricky to make - and keep - gluten free. Here are a few cool tools.



Have you seen these gluten-free matzo?
If you are lucky enough to be able to nosh gf oats - gluten free oat matzo. Or you can make your own!

Gluten free Easter candy lists:
list1
list 2
list 3

I am a pretty big fan of making your own new traditions too.

Daura - not-so-gluten-free-beer


UPDATE - apparently this is designated as a "low gluten beer" and is NOT gluten-free. Please consider this before you make the decision to consume this beverage.
**

I tried Daura Estrella Damm last week. The bar has been set pretty low in the gluten-free beer category, so I might be over-selling it.

Pros - It tastes like beer!
Cons - It tastes like crappy beer.

I have to give the company credit for creating a gluten-free beer from barley. Bravo on mastering that science experiment. Sadly, the result tastes a lot like college drinking games. I found it reminiscent of Coors Light or Busch Light. My drinking companion said it tasted like Corona.

Here I am clearly making a personal preference judgement call. I do not like this style of beer. To be fare, it is the MOST beer-like gluten-free beer I have ever had. The carbonation is right, the flavor is light, the hops are slight - but it is beer. So if you enjoy an easy-drinking beer, this might be exactly what you are looking for.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

naked pizza


There are few things I miss more than pizza and beer. Yes, there are a lot more gluten-free beers out there, and more places than ever are offering gluten-free pizza crust options... but let's face it, most of them suck. Gluten-free beers are bad. They either have a sour finish and/or taste way too sweet; and they all are missing true hoppy-ness. The carbonation is lacking, and they just don't taste like BEER. Gluten-free pizza crusts have their own host of problems, both taste and texture related. Please don't even get me started on ones filled with soy or chickpea flour - mehhck flavor and lead to tummy bubble city.

This leaves me on my important mission of trying and reporting back on any and all pizza and beer options. Yes, it is a difficult task, but someone needs to do it.

I first heard about Naked Pizza from a friend living in New Orleans. He mentioned that all locations have gluten free crusts, but these were sight unseen. When I heard they opened up a branch in Brookline, MA, I knew what I had to do.

I was a bit surprised when I walked in. The shop is very small, only 2 tables and a few counter seats. The menu is cute and quirky; imagine if your android phone made 2-d, minimalist icons for toppings. The decor is a combination of silver and GREEN. The place clearly is not designed for people to linger, but there is a large tv playing little videos about how the pizza's are made, where the ingredients come from, etc. Staff were super friendly and knowledgeable... but you are reading cause you want to know about the pies!

 This is probably the best restaurant gluten-free pizza I have had. This beats out every gluten-free frozen pizza too. I still think my homemade version is better, but not by much. The crust is thin, crisp, but not cracker-like. It is substantial enough to hold up to toppings and cheese without disintegrating. Oh and it doesn't taste like cardboard! It actually tastes pretty great, but the flavor does not outshine the toppings - and the cheese is worth a shout out. It is some of the best mozzarella I have had on a pizza. Guys, this pizza was so good, after it was devoured, I ordered a second one.

This is the look of surprise and shock at such a great crust. (Or I have been hypnotized by the neon green walls.)
 Yay for pizza!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Caseus, a shop, a book, a give-away


Caseus means home. Ok, not really, it's Latin for cheese. But the book, Caseus Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook: Every Cheese Has a Story, strikes a balance and feels like home, weird uncle included.

I am totally biased. The author is a friend, and I helped test many of the recipes that don the pages, but you should keep reading because it's that good. There is a warmth and familiarity - the photos feel like you are thumbing through an old Time Life book, and are juxtaposed recipes that talk at and with you. (There are several fonts used throughout, one for the recipes, and others for tips, techniques, and stories.) So old-timey photography - check. Conversational writing - check. Oh and then there is the mildly lewd opening quote referencing a copy of Playboy. Weird uncle - check.

Caseus is filled with too many contradictions. It shouldn't work, but it does. There is a blending of family, friends, co-workers, personal favorites, restaurant classics, side-stories, gourmet and high-end ingredients peppered throughout comfort foods. On my second visit to the restaurant and cheese shop I saw t-shirt-and-jeans lunch goers enjoying an amazing grilled cheese, next to a couple in 3-piece suits celebrating with a bottle of very nice champagne. It shouldn't work, but it does, and Jason has done a pretty astounding job of capturing it, with humor, throughout 160 pages.


Mac n Cheese

Beef and Veal Stock - yes, the bovine are swimming



These staff and family profiles one of my favorite parts


Casoulette - this shot reminds me of 2008's fall bacon club


Really beautiful watercolors

A close up of the back wall in the cheese shop, covered with cheese stickers



Are you intrigued? Is your mouth watering? Do you want a copy... for free?!

Here are the rules. Follow them, and you are on your way to winning a copy of your own.

Book give-away rules:
-post a comment and tell me what your favorite cheese is
-one entry per person
-entries must be received before 10am on Friday, March 23
*Gluten-free special - if you win, I will convert 3 gluten-filled recipes of your choice, into gluten-free recipes

Restaurant week

My feelings have not wavered since I wrote about Restaurant Week. I have zero desire to go out in the middle of a week-long disaster of epic gustatory proportions. Recently recovering from food poisoning only adds fuel to my fury.

Monday, March 12, 2012

St. Patty's Day recipe round-up

St. Patrick's Day is one of my all time favorite holidays. I get to eat some of my favorite foods! (I am still holding out for a decent beer to round things up to a perfect meal.) Slightly sweet quick bread, garlic-y veggies and corned beef... it's food made to be shared. (There is no such thing as boiled dinner for one. Though if you are in a pinch, I did have a pretty decent version at Solas, in the Lenox hotel. They topped the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, turnips and beef, with a parsley butter. Traditional, no, but delicious - YES!)

If the mood strikes you, I present to you the choose-your-own-adventure, and difficulty level, recipes. Soda bread - easy. Corned Beef & Cabbage - medium. Brining your own beef from scratch - medium but time consuming and worth it!

Corned Beef & Cabbage (aka boiled dinner)

 Irish Soda Bread

Corned Beef (literally corning or pickling of the beef) recipe


What are some of your favorite March 17th traditions?

Friday, March 9, 2012

kale chips

I did not want to make them. Kale chips seem like the "hip new health food", and I admit that I am the type of person who baulks a bit at food trends. (I dislike cupcakes and 2008 did not change my mind.)

It took seeing a small 2oz package of kale chips for over $6 to break me. I got a pound of kale, went home, used the googler, and made a batch myself.

All the recipes seemed too simple. Wash kale. Remove stem. Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.




I was wrong. Really wrong. THESE ARE AWESOME!!
They have the crisp-ness and salt of a potato chip, but are more interesting and super thin. They almost shatter in your mouth (in a good way). They are so addictive I nearly polished off the entire batch!

Urfa pepper

It might be time, but I will never admit I have a problem. I collect dried herbs and spices. I sort of find unexplained joy and pleasure in trying a new one for the first time. There is a thrill to seeing something for the first time, mentally playing with what it might smell and taste like. Then there is the joy of trying to sniff the item through the packaging, without looking completely ridiculous (if you have figured this out, please share, I fail even when sniffing coffee). The whole way home I get to hem and haw about what this product MIGHT taste like, and what it might play well with in the kitchen.  

When I saw urfa pepper in the Armenian market in Watertown, MA I grabbed a bag and let out an audible "oooooh".


Here pictured next to a bag of alleppo pepper. (I couldn't resist them either, especially when I saw how oily the bright red flecks were)


The peppers are dried and sweated in the sun. The flavor is somewhat similar to an ancho; they are smokey and raisin-like, but urfas have an earthier quality, deeper smokey flavor that is less hot and less sweet. I love using it on roasted root vegetables and meat. It might be my new favor chile.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gin for the win

After more than 2 weeks, the juniper infused vodka looked like this:

I am affectionately calling this the "boba" faze.
I sniffed the brew, and the STRONG, sharp smell of Christmas has dissipated from last week, so I decided it was officially done.
I strained the berries out, and combined the final product with a small amount of the original herbal "gin" to help balance it. Final product: 1.5 cups juniper infused vodka + 0.25 cup spice infused vodka = GIN!
No someone who likes gin please come taste it, because to me, it still tastes like licking the sap of a Christmas tree.

Gluten-free pumpernickel, almost there

This is my fourth attempt at gluten-free pumpernickel; its still not quite right. The last time the flavor was spot on, but it was too moist. This time, its a little bit dry. The inevitable Goldie Locks solution cannot be far away.

The first time I saw teff flour, I was pretty insistent that it looked like rye. My first go at fauxpernickel, I learned the major difference between the two - teff is partially fermented. My first loaf smelled like gym socks while dough and tasted quite sour when baked. Try #2 was a bit better. I cut the amount of teff down, to less than half the total flour content, which decreased the sourness, but also made it taste more like a generic loaf of multigrain bread, than pumpernickel. Try #3 was greatly improved by the addition of golden raisins and more teff, but the middle was "soggy-ish" and required toasting for it hold up to even a smidgen of butter to be run across its beautiful crumb.

Try #3 - too wet
2 1/2 cups preferment
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup teff
3/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp psyllim hush
2 tbsp flax seed meal
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp water - to loosen the batter

(The wed dough looked like chocolate pudding, but is the consistency of soft frosting.)
**
The best thing I learned from Try #3, was the addition of psyllium husks to the batter, in addition to the flax seed meal.  (Psyllium husks are the same ingredient in Metamucil, and if you have ever left a glass of that on your counter, you know their power to turn water into slimy sludge. Sounds gross, but totally helpful in binding together gluten-free flours.)

I also discovered that allowing the pre-ferment to go for more than 2 days, allowed time for the yeast flavors to develop beyond gym-sock-sour.





Here you can see the baked loaf. About half teff flour, plus a mix of millet, rice, potato starch, tapioca starch and arrowroot starch. It is dotted with golden raisins and sunflower seeds. The crumb is pretty even. The taste is on-point. The only problem - the texture. There is no push/give when one bites into it; it sort of crumbles. I think I might go back to adding an egg, or some oil (both I omitted in this batch). Other suggestions?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gluten-free a waste?

This morning's most emailed article on boston.com is "Are gluten-free products a waste for those without celiac disease?". The question is obviously leading, but there is a poll at the bottom of the piece, and I am looking forward to seeing more of the results. (Also some of the comments are pretty hilarious)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

BLT salad

This weekend I was in the midst of all the ingredients for a BLT sandwich, minus the bread. Thus, I present to you, the BLT salad.

This is how we do it
-wash and chop lettuce
-chop tomatoes
-very thinly slice red onion, and soak in ice water (removes some of the intensity)
-cook bacon, then rip or chop it
-dressing: 2 parts mayo + 1 part apple cider vinegar + a few grinds of black pepper

Assemble and enjoy.


Possible improvements: sliced avocado, corn chips, gf pita bread

Purple sweet potato

I have been eyeing these guys at the Asian food store for a while. They are labeled as PURPLE SWEET POTATO, and are twice the price of "regular" sweet potatoes (you can see one in the background), so I was staved off for a while. I finally broke down and purchased one.


Ok, hello awesome colored flesh!



I decided to roast them with sweet potato, kohlrabi, and carrots with a pinch of salt and oil. Side-by-side, the purple sweet potato was noticeably more earthy, slightly less sweet, and a bit drier, than the standard white-fleshed version. I really really really like them. I served them up with some homemade chana masala and some store bought saag paneer. My dinner ruled.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gluten free in the news


Baking without flour brings sweet results
NPR Story about delightful desserts

Celiacs split on benefit of gluten-free tax break 
No surprise that the complicated calculations for gluten-free foods makes it more difficult for people to file taxes

Kafka forges ahead minus gluten, lactose
“She gives weight to these niches,” said Corby Kummer, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine and a longtime friend of Kafka’s who pushed her to write the latest book after his stepdaughter was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant. “She carves out territory and then other people follow in her wake. No matter how many books come and go, hers are there.”


Gourmet and gluten-free: On the rise
A cute story about a Vancover bakery

Is going gluten-free good for you?
"Businesses aren't going to these lengths for the Celiacs. Because after all, they aren't the ones driving the sales. What is, according to Mintel, is advancements in the taste of gluten-free goodies, people's perception that gluten-free food is healthier and good old-fashioned trendiness."

Sugarbird Bakery Makes Gluten-Free Gourmet
Makes me want to visit Providence!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gluten free in the news

This is a first ever. There are so many stories about Celiac disease and gluten in the news, I am having to do a round-up. Hint, hint, the first one is my favorite!

Norwood Food Pantry Provides Gluten-Free Foods
"Pierce’s Pantry is the brainchild of Pierce Keegan, an 11th grade student from Wayland, who began raising money for Project Bread’s Walk for Hunger six years ago – about the same time he was diagnosed with celiac disease."

New Guide to Who Really Shouldn't Eat Gluten
This gives me hope for better research!

SURVIVING LIFE’S BIG SCRUM - Celiac disease hit rugby player Jamie Lawrence hard, but she has refused to be tackled
A nice person story

Why Liver Problems Require a Look at Celiac Disease
An interesting look at the connections between liver problems and Celiac

Should You Go Gluten Free? (video from TODAY show)

New Vaccine is being produced!
It's for a drug trial, but let's cross some fingers, and maybe some toes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Madrid Coffee Cakes

It is really hard for me to say no to free cake; so when Madrid Coffee Cake contacted me and offered up a free sample, I said yes. There is your warning, disclosure, what have you, dear readers, that the following victuals were not purchased by me, but here is what my brain and taste buds thought.


The Classic Tarta de Santiago was the hands-down winner. The cake is moist, not too sweet, has a nice texture with the ground and sliced almonds, and it is perfect with coffee or tea. It does not suffer from many of the pitfalls of gluten-free cakes, like being gritty from rice flour, dry, cracking, crumbly, or tasting of chick pea flour, or strongly of egg whites. I really liked it.

I was a bit surprised when I tasted the second offering, the Chocolate-Hazelnut Coffee Cake. While the cake middle itself was soft and moist, the top was cracking like a meringue, and the flavor was off. It did not taste like hazelnuts and the mini chocolate chips made it taste like a cheaper quality product that the Santiago. I contacted the owner, but have not heard back. I am hoping that this was a fluke or a bad batch. I will report back with updates.




While I probably would not grab another Chocolate Hazelnut Coffee Cake, but I am a little jazzed to taste the Pistachio-Almond. I am excited to have another local gluten and dairy-free bakery in the Boston area!